The controversial Northern Pass power line project isn’t dead. But it’s not Governor Charlie Baker’s problem anymore.
Two months ago, the Baker administration, alongside three electric utilities, endorsed Northern Pass over rival transmission proposals to deliver a vast amount of hydropower from Canada via New Hampshire. It was a key step in the state’s plan to reduce our reliance on natural gas. As of Wednesday, that selection has been officially terminated.
What went wrong? The Mass. selection committee liked that Northern Pass would be in service much sooner than rival proposals running through Vermont and Maine. But that optimistic timeline was almost immediately thrown into jeopardy when New Hampshire regulators denied a key permit. As a result, Northern Pass developer Eversource was given a March 27 deadline to win them over. When that didn’t happen, Avangrid’s power line through western Maine rose to the top.
Avangrid’s New England Clean Energy Connect has already drawn criticism, too. But nearly two-thirds of the roughly 150-mile line would go through existing utility rights of way. It’s hard to imagine the same fierce resistance emerging in Maine that Northern Pass faced in the Granite State.
It remains unclear how much influence Eversource had over the original Northern Pass selection. The company was on both sides of the table: Northern Pass was its baby, but it was also working the the state, National Grid, and Unitil on choosing among the three plans. That’s just one reason the Baker administration courted controversy by touting Northern Pass two months ago.
Eversource has already invested nearly $300 million over nearly a decade pursuing Northern Pass. The company is not about to give up now. But it can no longer turn to the Baker administration to help make the project a reality.Jon Chesto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @jonchesto.